The Meaning of Numbers: The Number 38
The full meaning of the number 38, although it appears several times in Scripture, is not entirely clear.
The Apostle Peter's ministry, like those of the other eleven apostles, began in 30 A.D. on the day of Pentecost. It ended with his martyrdom in either 67 or 68, which meant his ministry lasted 37 to 38 years. The original apostle that served the longest, however, is John. His ministry lasted an amazing 70 years until his death around 100 A.D.!
The book of Haggai is the eighth smallest section of Scripture. It has only 2 chapters, 38 verses and 1,131 words (KJV translation).
The New Testament's twenty-one letters (everything but the four gospels, Acts and Revelation) make up thirty-eight percent of the New Testament.
Kings and the number thirty-eight
King Jehoshaphat of Judah ascended to the throne in 872 B.C. and co-ruled with his father Asa for three years. He became, at the age of 38, Judah's sole ruler and reigned for another twenty-two years. Out of the Kingdom of Judah's twenty rulers (nineteen men and one woman), roughly eight of them are generally considered good (righteous) monarchs. Jehoshaphat was one of these eight.
Sadly, the Kingdom of Israel never enjoyed an occasional good ruler like her sister nation to the south. All twenty of its monarchs were corrupt. Its corruption at the top, however, reaches its worst streak starting with King Omri in 885 B.C. Then, in year 38 of Judah's King Asa, Omri's son Ahab ascends to Israel's throne (1Kings 16:29).
King Ahab indulged in a level of evil that was beyond any Israelite monarch before him (1Kings 16:30). After a sinful rule of twenty-year years his son Azaziah governs for two years (1Kings 22:51). Joram, the last of Omri's line to rule Israel, then governs for twelve years until army officer Jehu takes the throne in 841.
The number 38 and punishment
Two years after leaving Egypt the Israelites send spies from Kadesh, where they were located, into the Promised Land. Their task was to report on all they saw, including the number and strength of cities they viewed and the quality of the farmland (Num. 13:17 - 20). Upon their return, their faithless report brings God's wrath on the people and causes them to wander the wilderness an additional 38 years (Num. 32:8 - 13).
The Lord, at the completion of Israel's punishment (38 years after the initial report from their spies), finally commands the people to travel north. They are allowed to cross the Zered River into the territory belonging to the Moabites (Deuteronomy 2:13 - 15). Then, only after the death of both Aaron and Moses, are the Israelites allowed to go west and cross the Jordan into their inheritance.
Verse 38 of 1Kings 18 records Elijah calling down fire from heaven in order to consume his sacrifice to God. The Bible speaks of nine other times fire came down from heaven (Genesis 19, Leviticus 9 and 10, Numbers 11 and 16, 2Kings 1 (it came down twice on Elijah's enemies), 1Chronicles 21 and 2Chronicles 7).
Additional info on Biblical Meaning of 38
Zechariah, in year 38 of King Azariah of Judah's reign, ascended the throne of Israel in place of his father Jeroboam II (2Kings 15:8). He would ultimately have one of the shortest reigns of any king of Israel or Judah, reigning for only six months.
Zechariah was assassinated by Shallum, who took his crown in 752 B.C. Shallum himself would also suffer violence, as he was killed one month after become king by his successor Menahem (verses 13 to 14).
Mentioned only in one Gospel, Jesus performed a miracle that involved a person whose handicap kept him from being healed. Occasionally, at the Bethesda pool, an angel would stir its waters. The first person in the pool after the water stirred would then be healed of their diseases.
A man near the pool who had an infirmity for 38 years had repeatedly attempted, but failed, to reach the water before anyone else. His race to the pool was made extra difficult since he had no one to help him. Jesus decided, however, to take pity on the man and personally healed him (John 5:1 - 9)!